From the divan to the digital: A look at Turkey’s rich tradition of poetry

Political, intellectual and social trends have influenced the country’s popular literary rhythms from its earliest and deepest roots. This is their story.

Jalaluddin Rumi Museum, a Sufi philosopher and Islamic Sufi poet.
Jalaluddin Rumi Museum, a Sufi philosopher and Islamic Sufi poet.

From the divan to the digital: A look at Turkey’s rich tradition of poetry

Ancient Turkish literature emerged and flourished under the profound influence of Persian writing, itself deeply shaped by the rich traditions of Arabic prose, both in form and substance.

Just as Latin served as the lingua franca of medieval Europe, so too did Arabic in the Islamic world. Having embraced Islam earlier, the Persians engaged with Arabic poetry before the Turks, who initially adopted Persian for their literary creations and Arabic for religious and scientific discourse.

As the power of the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad waned and numerous governors of the states within the Ottoman Empire gained quasi-independence, the Persian language and culture experienced a renaissance on the eastern fringes of the Islamic Empire. Three centuries after converting to Islam, the Persians began publishing works in their language.

Epic debut

Ferdowsi's epic poem Shahnameh marked a pivotal moment in the emergence of a new Persian-Islamic literature, drawing from Arabic influences in form and essence while infusing it with unique elements.

This literary tradition gave rise to eminent poets who, until the close of the 15th century, enriched other Islamic literatures, including Turkish. Among these luminaries were Anwari, Attar, Nizami, Saadi, Hafez, Omar Khayyam, Jalaluddin Rumi, and Jami. whose works continue to inspire across time and borders.

In Turkish society, the oral tradition of folk poetry thrived through stanzaic meters reliant on syllabic uniformity and diverse rhyme schemes.

Persian – and indirectly, Arabic poetry – wove a new thread into the fabric of Turkish poetry. As it emerged, this new genre, known as divan şiiri, or divan poetry, was distinguished in its use of a rich, hybrid language that blended Turkish, Arabic, and Persian. It was marked by its elite lexicon, accessible only to the learned echelons of the time.

Demanding Divan

Initially, the Turkish language presented challenges to the nuanced demands of prosody its Divan Poetry demanded.

However, these hurdles were elegantly surmounted by elongating short vowels within the Turkish vernacular and by the seamless integration of an extensive lexicon and linguistic structures from Persian and Arabic. This fusion gave birth to a refined Turkish language, adept at crafting written literature.

Divan Poetry transcended the mere borrowing of words from Persian and Arabic. It embraced the intricate aesthetics and imaginative realms of both cultures.

Artist performing calligraphy in Ottoman Turkish

It produced poets who were not only masters of Turkish but were also proficient in Persian and Arabic, creating a trilingual literary elite. Among these luminaries were Fuzuli, Nabi, and Nef’i, whose works exemplify the rich intercultural dialogue of Divan Poetry.

This form of classical Turkish poetry flourished alongside folk and Sufi poetry until the twilight of the 19th century. By then, it had carved out a unique poetic identity, distinct from its Persian roots.

Despite attempts to rejuvenate Turkish prosodic poetry, transformative change remained elusive until the dawn of the twentieth century.

Critical juncture

The 20th century heralded a critical juncture for Divan poetry, propelling it into a phase of introspection and transformation. A confluence of factors drove this period of re-evaluation.

This included the sweeping tide of wider modernity in the country, the emergence of new Turkish literature inspired by Western paradigms, and the linguistic evolution following the dissolution of the multicultural, multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire.

The foundation of the Republic of Turkey – with its emphasis on national identity – spurred efforts to purify the Turkish language, stripping away the Persian and Arabic lexicon that had permeated Ottoman Turkish.

In this era of linguistic renaissance, there was a concerted push to revive a hallmark of oral folk poetry that had resonated throughout the ages: the syllabic meter.

The cultural institutions of the nascent state championed this initiative and departed from the prosodic verse inherited from Arabic and Persian traditions.

The syllabic meter – characterised by verses or quatrains of uniform syllable counts and partial or complete rhyme schemes – represented a return to the vernacular roots of Turkish literary expression, embodying the nation's quest for a distinct linguistic and cultural identity.

The ability of the Turkish language to fuse with Persian and Arabic linguistic structures gave birth to its refined literature.

Mounting challenges

In the nascent decades of the Republic, the syllabic meter surged to prominence amid endeavours to refine the Turkish language. Yet, the prosodic underpinnings of Turkish poetry endured.

As efforts to distil the language intensified, the art of employing prosody in Turkish verse faced mounting challenges. This complexity arose from the transition away from the Ottoman linguistic tradition, which embraced a rich lexicon derived from Arabic and Persian, to a "purified" form of Turkish.

Despite these linguistic metamorphoses, a cadre of poets, spearheaded by Yahya Kemal and Ahmed Haşim, navigated these evolving tides without abandoning prosody. Their oeuvre, a bridge between tradition and modernity, is termed "neo-classical," paralleling the luminaries of the Arabic poetic renaissance.

Yahya Kemal's poetry is a testament to the enduring allure of prosodic rhythm, albeit infused with contemporary themes. His work separates out into two predominant veins.

One is marked by a profound personal sensitivity, and the other by a deep engagement with historical and traditional motifs. This duality not only celebrates the past but also imbues it with a resonant presence.

Ahmet Haşim, an Arab born in Baghdad, wrote Turkish poetry that remained inextricably linked to performance music while adeptly navigating a new brand of poetic modernity.

His verses oscillate between doubt and tranquillity, echoing the serene and pure ethos championed by the French poet Paul Valéry, thus embodying a unique synthesis of emotion and intellect.

Within the context of the neoclassical movement, poets remained faithful to Ottoman poetic traditions while crafting modern poems that retained a classical essence.

They achieved this via symbolism, the pursuit of pure poetry, and the integration of musical elements into their verse — concepts that had been extensively explored in Western poetry.

This movement emerged as a direct outcome of cultural evolution. Urban centres, enriched by the flourishing of fine arts like music, theatre, and painting, garnered the favour of the Ottoman elite. This cultural renaissance naturally influenced Turkish literature and poetry, infusing them with new vibrancy and depth.

Ahmet Haşim was an Arab born in Baghdad who wrote Turkish poetry.

In the Ottoman twilight

In the twilight years of the Ottoman Empire, as its political and military might wane, three distinct political ideologies vied for dominance: Westernisation, Pan-Islamism, and Turkish nationalism.

For poetry, Tevfik Fikret became a fervent advocate for Westernisation, while Mehmet Âkif Ersoy, the lauded author of modern Turkey's national anthem, championed the resurgence of the Ottoman Empire as a bastion for the Islamic nation.

Meanwhile, Mehmet Emin Yurdakul ardently defended the cause of Turkish nationalism through his poetic and literary works. This ideological contention persisted vigorously until the 1940s, with Turkish nationalism gradually ascending as the prevailing ideological force.

The contraction of the Ottoman Empire, following defeats in the Balkan and Tripolitanian wars, and the upheaval of its multicultural fabric significantly boosted the rise of Turkish nationalism and the concept of the nation-state. This gathered pace when the Empire fell after World War I.

As nationalism gained momentum, non-Turkish prosody fell out of favour, and syllabic meter came into fashion, in line with the feeling of the times.

This shift signified not only a departure from the musical and rhythmic heritage that had enriched Turkish classical poetry for centuries. It was also celebrated as a political innovation by the official cultural establishment.

But eminent poets of the era, such as Yahya Kemal, Ahmet Haşim, and Mehmet Âkif Ersoy, largely disregarded it and continued to draw from Turkish poetic tradition

Yahya Kemal did not dismiss the burgeoning modernist movement within French poetry but underscored the imperative for a distinctive local flavour within Turkish poetry.

He championed the intertwining of sound and music in verse, keeping a profound sense of meaning. Along with Ahmed Hashim, who represented a different current within the Turkish poetic tradition, he emerged as an influential source of inspiration for subsequent generations of poets.

In an era where the syllabic meter was officially favoured, it struggled to foster poets whose works would endure through the ages.

Despite linguistic metamorphoses, a cadre of Turkish poets navigated the evolving tides without abandoning prosody, successfully bridging tradition with modernity.

Nonetheless, a select few crafted poems of lasting significance using the syllabic meter during the 1940s, including Ahmet Muhip Dıranas, Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı, and Necip Fazıl Kısakürek.

Their work stands as a testament to the potential for innovation and enduring appeal within the constraints of this poetic form and its unique contribution to Turkish poetry.

Breaking new ground

As modern Turkish poetry continued to evolve, the avant-garde work of the pioneering Nazim Hikmet broke new ground and transcended the traditional bounds of prosody and syllabic meter.

It came within global innovation in poetry. Like other writers, Hikmet was deeply influenced by the seismic shifts of the 1917 Soviet Revolution and the burgeoning socialist and revolutionary ideologies of the early twentieth century. He helped write a new chapter in Turkish poetic expression.

Nazim Hikmet's poetry was initially rooted in prosodic meter and rhyme — a testament to his early literary explorations. However, a study trip to the Soviet Union exposed him to the radical formal experiments of Vladimir Mayakovski — a leading figure of the Russian Futurist movement.

While this encounter did not deeply alter Nazim's thematic focus, it profoundly impacted his poetry's structural and formal aspects, steering him towards a social realist aesthetic imbued with a distinctive and vigorous poetic rhythm.

Achieving a universal appeal from the 1930s to the 1940s, Hikmet ventured into experimental terrains bordering on prose poetry, employing innovative expressive techniques.

His works, notably Human Landscapes from My Country and The Epic of Sheikh Bedreddin, stand out not only for their thematic richness but also for their inventive poetic methodologies.

The resonance of these compositions extended beyond Turkish borders, influencing poets across the Arab world, including Abdel Wahab Al-Bayati and Salah Abdel Sabour, whose works echo the thematic and technical innovations of Nazim's poetry.

The 1940s heralded a period of profound diversification in modern Turkish poetry, notwithstanding the politically charged atmosphere that exacerbated the rift between generations of poets.

Poets gravitated towards themes of isolation and enigma. Of particular note are Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca and Asaf Halet Çelebi. The former crafted a mystical Sufi realm within his poetry, floating in cosmic contemplation.

Çelebi, hailing from a Mevlevi lineage, explored the vast expanse of Sufi poetry, drawing not only from Islamic mysticism but also from Indian and Buddhist spiritual traditions, enriching the tapestry of Turkish poetry with diverse spiritual hues.

Like other writers, Nazim Hikmet was deeply influenced by the seismic shifts of the 1917 Soviet Revolution.

Strange times

In the same era—marked by the rise of neoclassicism and structured poetic forms—a groundbreaking movement, spearheaded by poet Orhan Veli, emerged as a countercurrent.

It was known as the Garip movement or the First New Poetry movement. It championed making poetry accessible to the economically marginalised majority rather than catering to the tastes of a cultured elite minority.

It advocated the crafting of simple, clear, and relatable poetry. The poems Orhan Veli published were perceived as unconventional by the standards of their time, leading to the Garip, which means "strange" in Turkish.

The movement was deeply rooted in urban culture. It addressed the lives of city dwellers through straightforward topics and employed a language free from the complexities of prosodic or syllabic structure.

It was a strong pushback against elitism and the quest for an elusive perfection in poetry, opting instead for a perspective that observed the world with a child-like wonder and eschewed traditional poetic imagery in favour of rich sarcasm.

Although the Garip movement initiated significant poetic reform within Turkish literature, its long-term aesthetic impact remains debatable. Nonetheless, it occupies a pivotal place in the annals of modern Turkish poetry.  

This was the inaugural movement to emancipate Turkish poetry from the confines of conventional rhythm and rhetoric, imbuing it with a spirit of sarcasm, spontaneity, and the vernacular.

This period in Turkish poetry is characterised by two predominant trends: the individualistic trend influenced by the Garip movement and the social realist trend inspired by Nazim Hikmet.

The former is exemplified by poets such as Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu and Behçet Necatigil, who explored the themes of personal introspection and existential inquiry.

The latter trend is represented by poets like Attila Ilhan and Ahmet Arif, who engaged with broader social and political themes, reflecting the collective conscience and struggles of the times.

Although the Garip movement initiated significant poetic reform within Turkish literature, its long-term aesthetic impact remains debatable.

Poets arrested

The year 1950 was an important turning point in which Turkey moved to a multi-party system. After the Democratic Party led by Adnan Menderes won the elections, Turkey began to integrate into the global capitalist system, and the idea of individualism came to the centre of society during this period.

Despite temporary relief in his government's first term, the gap in inequality created by the economic system deepened, leading to migration from villages. Cities were getting bigger, and cultural change and new problems came with their growth.

Political change continued and came with deepening ideological polarisation after the Democratic Party came to power for a second term. It reached the world of poetry, with some collections banned and writers arrested because of their work.

This was the environment where an influential poetic movement emerged, and it continues to inspire debate today.

The Second New Poetry movement was broad and had no common statement or intention. But it was influential, taking in a range of writers who were pushing the boundaries of traditional verse and picking up new themes to be discussed.

Work from the Second New Poetry movement included writers published in different magazines with different ideological leanings. The most prominent poets included Ilhan Berk, Turgut Uyar, Edip Cansever, Cemal Süreya, Ece Ayhan, Sezai Karakoç, and Gülten Akın.

The poets were unaffiliated with one another. But their individual work shared common characteristics. The poems were experimental in nature and featured introspection alongside pronounced ambiguity.

Their verses were laden with vivid imagery and distinguished by their unconventional use of language and form, setting them apart from the direct and accessible verse of the Garip movement.

Their poetry often embraced ambiguity, rendering the meanings nuanced and challenging to decipher. Cemal Süreya, in his essay Folklore is the Enemy of Poetry, said that poetry's essence lies not in narrative storytelling but in the "poetic load" crafted within the interstices of words, suggesting a preference for the intricacies of language over the narrative structure.

Turkey's Second New Poetry movement was distinguished by its writers' diverse politics, ranging from leftist, socialist, and anarchist to Islamic ideologies. This diversity marked a significant departure from the national and popular discourse championed by the Republic's inaugural poets.

The writers of the Second New Poetry movement pioneered a novel approach to Turkish poetry, establishing a unique relationship with music and the graphic arts, a novel interpretation of history, and innovative poetic forms.

The most prominent poets of the Second New Poetry movement included Cemal Süreya (L) and Gülten Akın (R).

The Second New Poetry movement

Ilhan Berk is a notable figure within this movement.

Initially exploring social poetry in the 1940s, Berk transitioned to becoming a fervent proponent of the Second New Poetry Movement during the 1950s, subjecting his work to continuous evolution and renewal.

His work navigates the realms of meaning and meaninglessness, engaging with nature and objects in profoundly intriguing ways. Berk also delved into the theoretical aspects of poetry, reflecting on its issues and nuances.

Turgut Uyar, another prominent poet from the movement, initially penned verses that reflected socialist themes about Anatolia.

In 1959, he released a collection titled The Most Beautiful Arabia in the World. His work articulates human anxieties, internal struggles, and emotional fluctuations with remarkable poetic precision, all while incorporating subtle sarcasm. It crafted complex images that intertwine existence, nothingness, and social awareness.

Another writer, Edip Cansever, brought to his poetry the psychological states of urban dwellers, navigating fears of the external world. Cansever's narrative language is captivating, often incorporating prose techniques and other artistic forms to enrich his poetry with a multi-layered textural quality.

Cemal Süreya introduced fresh aesthetic dimensions to the movement, earning acclaim for his captivating love poems, which serve as odes to the body. These poems often verge on the erotic and resemble the work of Nizar Qabbani.

Read more: Nizar Qabbani's poetic legacy garners greater appreciation in an increasingly superficial world

His poetry collection Üvercinka has cemented its status as a modern Turkish classic, celebrated for its passionate and vivid portrayals.

Ece Ayhan's poetry stands in contrast to Cemal Süreya's, characterised by its use of ambiguous poetic imagery and deliberate disruption of sentence structure and grammar to forge a language that counters traditional linguistic norms.

Ayhan's work transitions from the meaninglessness found in Ilhan Berk's poetry to a realm of richly layered meanings. However, it is enveloped in such a degree of ambiguity that it poses significant challenges for translation into other languages.

Turkey's Second New Poetry movement was distinguished by its writers' diverse politics, ranging from leftist, socialist, and anarchist to Islamic ideologies.

Sezai Karakoç is another key figure within the movement, noted for his metaphysical poetry that weaves surreal elements with modern Islamic Sufi traditions.

Karakoç significantly enriched his poetic content and form by embracing Islamic and Ottoman literary traditions. His work includes a notable translation titled An Anthology of Masterpieces of Islamic Poetry, published in 1967.

This translation, rendered in French from old Ottoman Turkish commentaries, features seminal Islamic poems, including Al-Burda by Ka'b bin Zuhair and Imam Al-Busiri, among others. It showcases his deep engagement with Islamic literary heritage.

Gülten Akın, the sole female in the Second New Poetry movement, is recognised for her lyricism and exploration of women's identity within a patriarchal society. She subtly weaves eroticism into her verses.

However, her poetry spans a broad spectrum, from individuals' emotional lives to societal events and the natural landscapes of Anatolia. Akın holds a distinguished place in modern Turkish poetry, with her work acclaimed for its depth and multiplicity of meanings.

1960s and beyond

After 1960, the evolution of Turkey's poetry changed again but remained significantly influenced by the Second New Poetry movement through the work of Hilmi Yavuz and Özdemir Ince.

As well as being Second New Poetry writers, they also brought in a new feel, infusing their work with a strong sense of individuality and originality.

This era also saw the emergence of younger poets such as Ataol Behramoğlu, İsmet Özel, and Cahit Zarifoğlu, who, drawing inspiration from the Second New Poetry, carved their own niches within the Turkish tradition.

Ataol Behramoğlu's poetry is characterised by a romantic and leftist sentiment, reflecting the socio-political currents of his times. On the other hand, İsmet Özel and Cahit Zarifoğlu infused their work with an "Islamic" atmosphere, albeit at varying degrees.

Özel, in particular, is noted for his anarchistic leanings, a choice of vocabulary that often veers towards rebellion, and a keen social sensitivity that delves into existential queries.

Refik Durbaş's leanings have a social focus, capturing the dilemmas and contradictions of urban life with a poignant sadness and lyrical quality. Similarly, Şenol Cesar maintains a straightforward and thoughtful style rooted in socialist realism, sometimes verging on the epic.

Hasan Hüseyin Korkmazgil also aligns with this tradition, drawing on the popular poetry of Anatolia and the influence of Nazim Hikmet.

Military influence

In the 1970s came political turmoil.

It followed the Military Memorandum of March 1971, which aimed to halt the progress of democratic transformation and curtail human rights and freedoms. It led to increased arrests of intellectuals and heightened pressures on the cultural scene.

In this environment, some Second New Poetry writers shifted their focus towards social issues, sparking a revolutionary discourse that critiqued the perceived reactionary nature of both the Garip and the wider Second New Poetry movements for being detached from the public or elitist.

There were also new voices crafting unique work that ventured into new areas while remaining rooted in social and popular traditions.

Ahmed Telli's work is marked by a delicate lyricism reflective of the Mediterranean milieu, exploring social and personal intricacies.

Gültekin Emre writes socially conscious poetry rich in layered meanings, while Veysel Çolak experiments with a range of styles, covering narrative poetry to deep imagery and from the lyrical to existential.

Adnan Özer, with his proficiency in Spanish, weaves local and modern elements into his poetry, drawing inspiration from authentic folklore and the rural landscapes of Thrace.

Meanwhile, Hüseyin Ferhad and Ahmet Erhan explore narratives detached from purely nationalistic trends, instead gravitating towards historical, mythical, and folkloric roots. Erhan's poetry notably captures the chaos and darkness of his thematic concerns.

This period of Turkish poetry reflects a vibrant and dynamic exploration of social, individual, and existential themes, marked by a diversity of voices and innovative approaches to poetic expression.

Gülten Akın, the only female in the Second New Poetry movement, is known for her lyricism and exploration of women's identity within a patriarchal society.

Aesthetic articulation

From the 1970s to the present day, Turkey has been home to poets of varied temperaments, with a general trend toward modernism and experimentalism.

Standout writers include Metin Altıok, Enis Batur, Güven Turan, Sina Akyol, and Tarık Günersel. Each has a distinct poetic voice, yet they are united by a fervent devotion to poetry as a means of aesthetic articulation.

Metin Altıok's verse delves into the heart of human anguish and societal disquiet, drawing from the rich wellspring of both ancient and contemporary Turkish poetry to find a fresh poetic vernacular.

Meanwhile, Enis Batur ventures boldly across the expanse of poetic forms and possibilities, his work characterised by a remarkable serenity and depth, even as it delivers lyrical insights. He epitomises the spirit of the avant-garde, with vast cultural erudition.

Parallel to these voices, modern Islamic poets gained momentum, notably through literary journals such as Diriliş, Edebiyat, and Mavera, reaching a zenith in 1980.

This cohort of poets engaged deeply with linguistic and formalistic inquiries alongside ideological rigour in their literary creations.

Of particular note is Cahit Zarifoğlu, whose work resonated with the Second New Poetry movement, following in the footsteps of Sezai Karakoç. In the realm of short stories, Rasim Özdenören emerged as a formidable figure.

Erdem Beyazıt, a poet from Kahramanmaraş, articulated the tumult, solitude, and estrangement birthed by urban life, though some critics labelled his work as "purpose-driven." Within this milieu, Cahit Koytak and Ilhami Çiçek also explored similar themes with notable impact.

It's imperative to recognise that not all Sufi poetry can be straightforwardly attributed to Islamic sources. Indeed, a distinct strand of Sufi poetry exists untethered to Islamic references, a realisation that became more pronounced as Turkish poetry diversified post-1980s.

A distinct strand of Sufi poetry exists untethered to Islamic references.

Transformation after the 1980s

After the 1980s, Turkish poetry navigated through a labyrinth of transformation. The political upheaval following the military coup of September 1980 temporarily stifled cultural expression.

Then, the ascendancy of Prime Minister Turgut Özal in 1983 brought a wave of liberal ideologies and institutional reforms and breathed new life into Turkey's societal and cultural landscape.

It was a time of tumult and transition, juxtaposed with the burgeoning complexities of urban life. It propelled intellectuals towards introspection and a profound sense of alienation.

This was when the New Second Poetry movement garnered prominent attention, diverging from what came before it. At the same time, other readers and writers found solace and inspiration in ancient Divan poetry or sought to resurrect the Garip movement.

In this era of diverse literary currents, it becomes evident that poets walked their own paths. No singular movement dominated the scene.

It was a time of flourishing linguistic richness, innovative form and expressive depth. It steered Turkish poetry toward personal introspection rather than collective narratives.

Colloquialism and vulgarity

The poetry of this time is characterised by a fascination with the nuances of language, the resonance of themes, and the profundity of meaning.

For instance,  küçük İskender, or Alexander the Little, embraced a vernacular that mirrored the vibrancy of street language, occasionally veering into colloquialism and vulgarity, to forge a connection with diverse subcultures.

His poetry served as a beacon against the tyranny of oppressive ideologies, militarism, and gender biases.

In contrast, Haydar Ergülen's work is imbued with a melancholic lyricism, drawing from the mystical depths of Anatolian Sufism, albeit with a secular feel.

This period also saw poets like Tuğrul Tanyol and Vural Bahadır Bayrıl follow in Hilmi Yavuz's footsteps, rejuvenating ancient poetic traditions with a contemporary fervour, thus ensuring the resilience and vibrancy of Turkish poetry in modern times.

Another area of exploration lies in spiritual poetry, diverging from conventional Islamic poetic conventions.

This genre of poetry navigates between faith and doubt, existence and non-existence, imparting a sense of peculiar spontaneity upon the reader. But upon closer scrutiny, the intricate nuances embedded evoke bewilderment and awe.

Poets like Tuğrul Tanyol and Vural Bahadır Bayrıl followed in Hilmi Yavuz's footsteps, rejuvenating ancient poetic traditions with a contemporary fervour.

Female voices

Despite its alignment with certain modernist Western currents, this form of poetry finds its roots in Middle Eastern myths and their rich tapestry of folklore narratives.

In this context, three female voices stand out: Lâle Müldür, Gülseli Inal, and Nilgün Marmara.

Müldür's poetry has been described as remarkably dynamic in an article by another poet, Elçin Sevgi Suçin. Müldür exudes a sense of constant motion, imbued with both consciousness and an insatiable curiosity.

Her verses probe the mysteries of the universe, using metaphorical language or imagery to explore deep and profound concepts. She starts a dialogue with a wide spectrum of religious traditions, finding reconciliation with Sufism and the teachings of Islam.

Müldür's work also explores the realms of social psychology and sociology, commencing from the individual perspective. In essence, her poetry is multifaceted, offering insights into history, natural phenomena, spatial dimensions and national politics.

In Gülseli Inal's poetry, two prominent themes emerge: nature and myths, which serve as profound spiritual sources for her artistic expression. The concepts of existence and mortality take centre stage.

Nilgün Marmara's work traverses bridges to the cosmic realm, drawing inspiration from Sylvia Plath's "confessional" poetry.

However, Marmara's verse isn't a mere replication of Plath's oeuvre; rather, it stands out as a unique creation in its own right. Her perception of time is situated along the axis of non-existence, lending her poetry an aura of estrangement and peculiarity.

Social themes remain

Social poetry did not fade away during this period; rather, it persisted with a contemporary perspective. Many poets of this inclination had first-hand experience with imprisonment.

Notable figures among them include Metin Cengiz, Tuğrul Keskin and Şükrü Erbaş. Emirhan Oğuz holds a distinctive position within the realm of social poetry during this era, having composed one of his collections while incarcerated.

But Oğuz also produced poetry that defies categorisation as mere prison verse. His lyrical poems, influenced by the traditions of Latin poetry, captivate the reader.

Moreover, he embraces linguistic innovation, experimenting with form and discourse, seamlessly traversing the boundaries between prose and poetry.

His verse is marked by a blend of sensitivity and melancholy, intertwined with themes of sorrow, pain, and vulnerability, alongside a deep empathy for the Palestinian cause.

We observe a growing trend among social poets to incorporate narrative elements into their poetry.

They draw inspiration from Anglo-Saxon literary traditions, which is evident in their vivid depictions of landscapes, scenes of people in natural settings, and exploration of themes related to journeys and travel.

Prominent figures leading this movement include poets such as Cevat Çapan and Roni Margulies.

New voices in a new millennium

As we reach the first decade of the 21st century, the prevailing zeitgeist, moulded by the principles of liberalism, has given a distinctly plastic feel to the arts.

This era has seen poetry undergo a significant transformation, characterised by a heightened emphasis on experimentation, innovation, alienation, and uniqueness.

Emirhan Oğuz's poetry is marked by themes of sorrow, pain, and vulnerability, alongside a deep empathy for the Palestinian cause.

The forces of globalisation, coupled with the upheaval and strain from global conflicts, have nurtured a wave of cynicism and satire within poetic works, manifesting explicitly in some and subtly in others.

Additionally, there's been a remarkable increase in poets who anchor their work in existential themes, marking the first time in Turkish poetry that the states of being and non-being, poetry, and philosophy have so deeply entwined.

The period also witnesses a significant surge in female poetic voices, enriching the landscape with talents such as Arife Kalender, Didem Madak, Birhan Keskin, Bejan Matur, Asuman Susam, Nilay Özer, among others.

Parallel to this, the male poetic scene has flourished, spotlighting figures like Ömer Erdem, Şeref Bilsel, Aydın Afacan, Hasan Erkek, and more, each contributing to the vibrant and diverse tapestry of contemporary Turkish poetry.

The onset of the 21st century marked a period deeply influenced by consumerist ideologies. Technological advancements propelled both established and emerging urban populations into the modern output mix.

The advent of the Internet as a global network fundamentally altered the dynamics of human communication, ushering in new forms of solitude, isolation, and alienation. Poetry, too, found itself navigating through these shifts, reflecting the complexities of this new era.

A remarkable development during this time was the ascendance of female poets, who began to feature prominently in the literary landscape.

Their work – rich in metaphor and centred around themes of existential inquiry from a feminine perspective – challenged the male-centric norms of language.

These poets endeavoured to carve out identities through their verse, often employing sarcasm and mockery as tools of expression.

Esteemed poets such as Elif Sofya, Elçin Sevgi Suçin, Gonca Özmen, Betül Dünder, Hilal Karahan, Hayriye Ünal, Zeynep Arkan, Duygu Kankaytsın, and Didem Gülçin Erdem distinguished themselves in this era.

The new generation of millennium poets strove to distinguish their individual voices, with Mehmet Erte, Gökçenur Çelebioğlu, Fahri Güllüoğlu, Ersun Çıplak, Seyyidhan Kömürcü, Efe Duyan, and others making significant contributions.

Additionally, poets like Selim Temo and Lal Laleş, who write fluently in both Turkish and Kurdish, emerged as pivotal figures, integrating Kurdish symbols and political narratives into their poetry, enriching the cultural tapestry with their bilingual and bicultural insights.

During this era, poets primarily explore themes that reflect on the individual's internal landscape, their immediate environments, a yearning for the treasured moments of past local cultures, and a mourning for their fading presence in contemporary life.

They articulate the disintegration of personal connections and narrate the human journey through the mundanities of daily existence.

Alongside these explorations, certain poetic voices reach deeper into the tumults and existential quandaries confronting humanity, illuminating the oppressive conditions that prevail on both local and global fronts.

Turkish poetry remains in a state of vibrant flux, propelled by an array of non-traditional platforms and innovative forms that continue to redefine its boundaries and essence.

font change

Related Articles